Sunday, June 27, 2010
It had to happen, hadn't it? Shades of 1996 all over again? Some sort of sick German vindication? Those thoughts went through everyone's mind as the referee overruled Frank Lampard's perfectly legitimate goal against Germany at Bloemfontein. A section of the England fans will argue that the match could have swung in England's favour if that goal had stood. That's fair enough, but when I considered how the young Germans cut open England defence at will, I doubt that it would make much of a difference. Still, it is too easy to hold on to a "what if" because England was completely ripped apart by an excellent German team.
England's lack of pace in defence was completely exploited by Klose and the delightfully talented gang of Mueller, Podolski and Oezil. Germany's first goal was route one football that even England would have been proud of. Klose moved nearer to his aim of beating Ronaldo's record 15 World Cup goals. Miroslave Klose is now on 12 goals and has three more matches to at least equal Ronaldo's 15.
Ironically, England played their best football against Germany but the precision and pace of the German attacks were simply too hot for England to handle. Wayne Rooney had his best game for England and looked more like his confident self. Gerrard however started out badly on the left of England's midfield, but grew into the game and in the end he looked the one most likely to score for England.
There is no denying that Capello lost the plot completely in South Africa. There were signs of it already when he dropped Theo Walcott, picked Carragher and King in the final 23. The starting lineup that Capello picked had neither pace nor flair. James Milner only came alive in the last 15 minutes before he was substituted - he is clearly not ready yet at senior level. The swagger and confidence of the qualifiers were gone to be replaced by doubt, fear and defensive frailties.
If Capello had hoped to scare the young Germans by England's reputation alone, then he would have been embarassed as Oezil almost put Germany in the lead as early as the fifth minute. From then on, Bastian Schweinsteiger was directing traffic from midfield, and though England had more possession, Germany looked the more dangerous. This was reminiscent of the Germany that exploded onto Australia and while Die Mannschaft scored four goals here, this performance was far more controlled and disciplined.
The only gloom from this match is that Jogi Loew's boys will face likely elimination when they meet the similarly excellent Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Javi Mascherano in the quarterfinals. I am assuming that Argentina will get past Mexico later today. A free-flowing Germany against the power and pace of Messi should make for exciting viewing.
Well, that's finally the end of the so-called "Golden Generation". A collection of top-class English players who promised so much and yet delivered so little. Fabio Capello could not emulate Sven Goran Eriksson's achievement of successive World Cup quarterfinalists. The unfortunate Wayne Rooney departed the tournament without scoring a goal. Only Steven Gerrard emerged from this England campaign with his reputation intact. The process of reassembling a more competitive England will be very interesting indeed.
England-Germany matches are normally filled with controversy. Lampard's disallowed goal fulfills that part. The rest of the game highlighted a group of young Germans coming of age. Die Mannschaft tore the Three Lions to shreds in South Africa!
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